Change – just as it’s an integral part of our life, so is for any business, including pharmaceutical or healthcare. Interestingly, the phase of transition of such changes isn’t always slow and gradual. In many cases, especially for business, or for a lifestyle too, these transitions could also be faster and disruptive.
The speed of many such changes is now driven by rapidly evolving technology. Or these could often be triggered by some unanticipated event, like the Covid-19 pandemic that we all experienced, very recently. Such changes may impact people working in different functions, in different ways. Which is why, organizations need to be all-time ready, with a robust process in place – known as Change Management.
In this article, I shall focus on the relevance of putting in place a well-validated system driven Change Management process within, especially, the Indian pharmaceutical organizations. Let me start with my understanding on what is the Change Management, so that all of us be on the same page in this regard.
To be on the same page on what is Change Management:
There are several definitions of the change management process expressed differently, but it’s core concept remains unchanged. One such illustration comes from The TechTarget network. It says:“Change management is a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organization’s goals, processes, or technologies. The purpose of change management is to implement strategies for effecting change, controlling change, and helping people to adapt to change.”
Why many pharma majors are considering it now, more than ever before:
Being amid a technological revolution, encompassing almost all aspects of life and then in the post-pandemic area, change is being expected as a way of life and business, more than ever in the past. Although pharma industry a late learner - and is also traditionally late to change – these can’t be now pushed to the back burner, any longer, as was happening in the pre-pandemic era.
‘Change Management’ can’t be pushed to the back burner, any longer:
This process has now attracted a sense of urgency for many pharma players, as we read and look around. Several big companies have already started addressing the leadership challenges to manage and leverage the evolving changes, as I wrote in my article of October 3, 2022, in this blog.
To be in sync with both customers and employee expectations on an ongoing basis, the change management process in an organization has assumed a priority. User friendly state of the art technology is facilitating to effectively address the growing intricacies of today’s field staff role by infusing leadership mindset change in the organizational culture. Emphasizing this point in my article on July 19, 2021, I underscored that such change should necessarily reflect the company’s vision for the future, unambiguously.
Most companies have changed over a period of time in varying degree:
Most companies have changed over a period of time. Nonetheless, today’s need, pace and the process of change demand a data science based customized approach. The good news is several pharma majors have also started feeling that they require not just to change with time, but also need to put more data science based cerebral input to fathom why and how it changed to be more effective in the future.
An insightful understanding is essential to put in place and kick start a right change management process. To give a sense of it, let me cite a contemporary example of one of the successful global pharma majors – GSK. This case study was prepared by the Project Management Institute.
Achievement of a key milestone could make all the difference:
When GSK initiated this process in 2009, the organization realized that an important milestone in the implementation of the company’s change initiative must be to gain the trust and belief of leadership—many of whom were neutral or cynical about it.
To achieve this goal a custom made ‘Accelerating Delivery and Performance (ADP) program; was found to be quite effective for the company. It delivered both hard business benefits as well as softer organizational development benefits. This approach allowed the team to gain the attention of those leaders who wanted both.
Five principles formed the bedrock of the ADP approach:
The following ADP principles are time-tested, contemporary, and several of these were practiced by GSK in their change management process when it started in 2009.
- Changes should begin with the initiator of change and focusing on greater customer satisfaction.
- Active support of all stakeholders in the process of change is critical.
- Include all staff who will be impacted by the change – while defining, explaining, and ensuring accountability and continuously measuring the time bound shared goals, especially the business and financial ones.
- Make sure they all share ownership for the outcome of change, through seamless teamwork.
- Make a pilot study before pan organization implementation.
The change management process continues:
That the change management process needs to be ongoing even for successful drug majors – such as GSK, is particularly evident from their Press Release on June 23, 2021.
The communique giving details of the organization’s strategic and other transformation pathways, also highlighted, “New GSK to deliver step-change in growth and performance over the next ten years driven by high-quality Vaccines and Specialty Medicines portfolio and late-stage pipeline.”
Specific areas of change, as the pandemic wanes:
There are several studies in this area, such as the one published in the Growth Faculty Learn, published on February 07, 2023. Let me paraphrase its summary as follows:
- Although the pace of change in different businesses may vary but will certainly keep changing. The leaders should, therefore, act proactively to lead their teams through a well validated change management process to gain a competitive edge.
- Full preparedness for the change and garnering change management skills before the process begins are critical.
- Advance planning for employee wellbeing, well structured individual and collective communication strategy, deciding on specifics of a hybrid work culture – all based on data-science, are of great importance.
- To ensure the effectiveness of the change management process a positive workplace environment is a must, which will stand on five pillars - Trustworthiness, Empathy, Genuineness, Self-awareness, and a Learning mindset.
Thus, it’s high time for all to realize that the pharma business ball game is now changing fast for all, creating an urgent need to focus on the critical areas of change.
It now boils down to an important point, which was also echoed in an article on this area published in the Pharma IQ on November 23, 2022. It underscored just as any living being keeps moving on the pathway of change, pharma and healthcare industry should proactively follow a similar path.
External environmental factors would play a catalytic role to accelerate the speed of change. These include fast evolving consumer friendly digital applications and health apps - newer, better, and more targeted drugs and treatment processes, or even unprecedented disruptions of lives and livelihoods, just what we all have recently experienced.
A study published in the Pharma Marketing Network on October 27, 2021, also reiterated that the main goal of any change management approach is to foster support of all concerned that leads to good outcomes within an organization. It found that an effective way to implement a change is by engaging and inspiring employees to adopt new (and improved) ways of working.
Against the above backdrop, putting a structured change management process in place by Indian pharma players, I reckon, is now essential. This approach seems to be a Magic Wand, as it were, for ongoing business success and sustainability in today’s rapidly evolving paradigm.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.